Mike Ruby

Mike Ruby

It’s been said that when an old person dies, it’s like a museum burning down. How true. I never thought much about that until the past few years when both of my parents, several relatives, and many elderly friends have died. They have taken a lifetime of experiences and memories with them to the grave, never sharing many of their stories.

Being somewhat of a history buff, and always interested in the experience of others, I am saddened when I hear of a death, not just because I will miss their friendship, but it truly is like a museum burning down.

If I could repeat the past few decades, I would interview many people who are now deceased. I would ask them questions about their childhood, faith, fears, hopes, dreams, disappointments, and encourage them to share memorable stories and experiences.

My 98 year old aunt is my last living relative of that generation. She continues to live an active social life and her mind is exceptionally sharp. She had a hip replacement in June and came through it with flying colors. We see her frequently and often ask questions about her long life and then sit back and listen. Over the years, we’ve learned about her childhood on the farm, how her mother sold her wedding ring so the farm wouldn’t be repossessed during the Great Depression, her college days, early years of marriage, her 40-plus year career as a music educator, her many trips abroad, and her decades of volunteer service. The conversations are fascinating and our mental notes are often written in hard copy. I don’t want this “museum” to burn down until I’ve had a chance to savor all of the contents.

Everyone, no matter their education, career, or life’s accomplishments, has a story to tell. For the older generation, please jot these memories down or, better yet, have someone capture your “mental museum” on an audio recording or a DVD. You have a goldmine of information to share. For the younger folk, select older relatives or friends and encourage them to share their stories with you.

I treasure a video recording of my mother on her 90th birthday as she spent almost two hours sharing dozens of memories and stories of her life. The video was duplicated and given to her children and grandchildren. In 2007, my mother died at age 95 but that priceless video is safely stored in a fire proof cabinet.

By tapping these “museums,” there is an irreplaceable legacy that is passed on through the generations. Don’t let these museums burn down without exploring and enjoying their contents.

Mike Ruby is a Muscatine resident who writes a monthly column about life for the Journal.

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